Following a competitive bidding process, councillors have decided to sell the land to developers who want to build a care home for the town, which has the potential to create over 60 new jobs in the area.

The land has been on the market for a number of years. Three years ago, Kimberley Developments was chosen as the council's preferred purchaser to construct a food store, but due to the economic problems faced by the food retail sector, the disposal of the land did not go ahead.

"As many people are aware, we hoped that a food store was going to move to the site three years ago," explains Councillor Tony Dignum, Leader of Chichester District Council. "However, the developers pulled out of the deal due to the economic problems faced by the retail sector. We know the local community was particularly keen on such an outcome as it would promote Midhurst into a more substantial retail centre, but, given the economic challenges facing the food industry, we had to consider a range of other uses.

"After three marketing efforts, no financially acceptable retail bid has presented itself. We are bound by the law which states that a council shall not dispose of land for a consideration less than the best.  A number of residents have suggested selecting housing for the site, but the residential bids that CDC has received all fail the legal best value test."

The council has extensively marketed the site and has considered a range of uses including a possible small business hub, other retail options, residential property, sheltered housing and care home facilities. From the bids that the council received, it felt that a care home is the best long term solution.

"It meets a genuine community need and offers good local employment opportunities, with the potential to create over 60 new jobs in the town," says Cllr Dignum. "We expect the new accommodation to bring substantial benefit to older residents wishing to live in the centre of Midhurst, especially as staff and residents only have a short walk to access key community facilities and the shops in the town.

"We have made this decision based on benefits that we believe it will bring the town, both in terms of meeting its current needs and creating jobs.

"As a council we are committed to helping Midhurst with its ongoing Vision activities and seeking innovative new ways to improve the town's sense of place and its attractiveness as a visitor destination.  We welcomed the National Park headquarters, the growing Cowdray Estate Activities and a multitude of smaller projects. We remain committed to the development of Midhurst as a delightful rural town in a beautiful downland setting.

"I will also be seeking to triple the town Visions budget for next year from £50,000 to £150,000 to boost realisation of the Visions in Midhurst, Petworth, Selsey and Chichester."

Date of release: 4 September 2018

Reference: 3836